A sale, an award, a fantastic critique, a reunion!

Last week I traveled to Tacoma, WA to attend the Colored Pencil Society of America annual convention.  The convention and International Exhibition is held in a different city each year and is always a highlight of my year–the opportunities to reconnect with artist friends, make new artist friends, see fantastic artwork in person, talk art, win door prizes and raffle prizes, take home a bag of free art goodies, learn new things, network, and explore a new locale is well worth the trip no matter where it is. This time it even offered a breathtaking view of Mt. Rainier from my hotel room!

I was the moderator for the District Chapters Forum–a gathering of chapter presidents–all day Tuesday and Wednesday.  On Thursday I took a one-day workshop to learn how Chicago artist Tracy Frein creates his moody portraits on drafting film, and came away totally inspired.

That evening in the silent auction I bid on an original drawing by Cecile Baird on behalf of Arlene Steinberg (she won!) and won some useful door prizes.

Then Friday happened!  I had most of the day free, so I walked the two blocks to The American Art Company to examine the CPSA International Exhibition at my own pace.  A small group of people happened to be looking at my Tree of Kintsugi so I tried to discreetly eavesdrop.  But someone recognized me and asked about the title.  I explained that kintsugi is a Japanese philosophy that regards things that have been broken and repaired as more beautiful because of it, not less, and I felt that this tree embodied it–it had lost half of itself, but the wound had healed, mosses decorated the scars, and the other half of the tree continued to grow very well.  Right away, one of the ladies in the group said “That’s it, I’m going to buy it!”  She was serious!  She bought it from the gallery right then and there, and the red dot went onto its tag.  I’m pleased that it’s going to a new home in the Chicago area with someone who appreciates it, although I’m also a little sad to let “my baby” go so soon after its completion just a few months ago.


That evening at the awards banquet, I was overjoyed to learn that my Tree of Kintsugi won one of only two $800 Awards for Outstanding Achievement!  Of course that made my buyer happy, too, since it validated her feeling about its artistic merit.  The CPSA live-posted each award winner to their Facebook page as it was announced.

2016OustandingAchivement

As if that wasn’t enough, it got even better on Saturday.  The juror for the show, Michael W. Monroe, Director Emeritus of the Bellevue Art Museum in Bellevue, WA and a former curator at the Renwick Gallery of Art in Washington, DC,  gave a talk/critique at the gallery.  He commented on 20 or so of the 120 pieces, some of them award winners, some of them not, some of them he said he almost didn’t include at all and explained why; it was well-attended and very educational.

To my astonishment, he stopped at my Tree of Kintsugi and praised it extensively for two and a half minutes!  Fortunately I was ready with my iPhone and captured all but the first couple of seconds.  Here it is.

After the talk, my cousin Anita whom I hadn’t seen since we were both small children (at least 45 years ago!) made the trip from Renton, we spent the entire afternoon getting reacquainted and she attended the reception with me.


What a week!  I’ve been floating since.

 

 

How NOT to approach an artist

After reading the blog post “How to Start a Fine Art Collection” on Invaluable’s blog, I’ve been thinking about all the crazy ways collectors have approached me. You might be surprised at some of the questions I’ve been asked and statements I’ve been obliged to respond to while my work is on display at a festival or open studio event:

“When are you going to start painting in oils?”
“Why should I buy this when I can just take a photograph of the same thing?”
“Why does this cost so much?”
“What’s your best price for this–can you give me a discount?”
“How about if you sell this to me without the frame, can you discount it for that?”
“If I buy this, will you re-frame it for me?”
“Why did you think this picture might sell?”
“Are these the original drawings?” (While pointing at printed note cards)
“How big of a drawing can you do for $100?”
“What’s the cheapest original you have for sale?”
“You should consider working abstractly.”
“You did this from a coloring book!”(While pointing to a drawing and the step-by-step booklet that I wrote as I drew it.)
“You just xeroxed a photograph and colored it in.”
“You must have very good pencils.”
“Is it okay if I take a photo of this drawing as long as I leave your signature out of it?”
“Can I take a photo of this drawing and have T-shirts printed from it?”
“My daughter likes to paint–can you come to our house and give her lessons?”

And some of the inquiries I’ve received via email through my website:

“Can you send me a list of all your available work, with sizes and prices?”
“Can you send me the artwork and if I like it I’ll keep it and pay you?”
“Let me know if you ever do a picture of X.” (Where X is a particular animal, flower, scene, person.)

Granted, most of these folks were members of the general public, not art collectors, so they could be somewhat excused for their brashness and/or naivete.  But a couple of them were art collectors, so I expected better from them.  Here’s a rundown of my responses to all these.  Some of them I did actually say at the time.  For others, I was so taken aback that I didn’t think of a good response until long after the person had gone.

“When are you going to start painting in oils?”
(The implication is that drawing must only be a stepping stone to oil painting.)  I’ve painted in oils and was decent at it, and I’ve also had success with many other media, but I came back to colored pencil because I like it best.

“Why should I buy this when I can just take a photograph of the same thing?”
Because my artwork is better than a photograph–it’s my vision of the scene.

“Why does this cost so much?”
Because quality work isn’t cheap.  My work is meticulous and very time-consuming to make, sometimes as much as 100 hours, and usually includes the framing under museum glass or museum acrylic. Even at this price, I make well under minimum wage for it.

“What’s your best price for this–can you give me a discount?”
I’m not Walmart.  The price is the price.

“How about if you sell this to me without the frame, can you discount it for that?”
I carefully chose the mat, frame and glass to tastefully complement the piece, and included it in the price.  If you buy it, you can re-frame it as you like.

“If I buy this, will you re-frame it for me?”
I’m not a framer.  If you buy it, you can have a frame shop frame it as you like.

“Why did you think this picture might sell?”
(This question was asked by a collector.)  I didn’t draw this for you, I drew it for me.  If it speaks to someone else enough for them to want to own it, I’m thrilled, but I’m also fine enjoying it on my own walls.

“Are these the original drawings?” (While pointing at printed note cards)
No, they were made from the original drawings by a printer.  You didn’t really think I’d make ultra-detailed original drawings on 5×7 cards and sell them for $4, did you?

“How big of a drawing can you do for $100?”
I’m probably not the right artist for you to talk to.  If you have a photo reference, size and medium in mind I can give you a price estimate, but not the other way around.

“What’s the cheapest original you have for sale?”
If you’re asking me that, you’re talking to the wrong artist. I don’t create my work just to sell it cheap.

“You should consider working abstractly.”
(This odd statement was made by a collector.)  I’m a realist, so I’m not really interested in working abstractly.  Do you have any idea how many abstract painters have told me they work abstractly because they can’t draw?

“You did this from a coloring book!” (While pointing to a drawing and the step-by-step booklet that I wrote as I drew it.)
I don’t do coloring books.  I wrote that booklet, and it’s not a coloring book, it’s a step-by-step drawing lesson.

“You just xeroxed a photograph and colored it in.”
No I didn’t.  No printer or copier has been anywhere near my drawing paper.  I draw basic, faint outlines first just like any other artist.

“You must have very good pencils.”
I do, but it takes more than that to make a work of art, just as it takes more than good pans to make a gourmet meal.

“Is it okay if I take a photo of this drawing as long as I leave your signature out of it?”
Absolutely not!  That would be even worse than taking a photo of it with my signature in it, which I also don’t want you to do because as soon as you share it I’ve lost control of my own artwork.

“Can I take a photo of this drawing and have T-shirts printed from it?”
Absolutely not!  Why should you get all the profit from my creation?

“My daughter likes to paint–can you come to our house and give her lessons?”
That’s wonderful that your daughter likes to paint, and good for you for encouraging her.  But you’ll notice that I’m not a painter, I draw.  The mediums are very different.  And I’m not a childrens’ art teacher.

“Can you send me a list of all your available work, with sizes and prices?”
All this information is already on  my website.  If you see a piece you like on one of the gallery pages, just click on it to get its full information.  I’m an artist, not a retail catalog.

“Can you send me the artwork and if I like it I’ll keep it and pay you?”
Absolutely not!  I’m not stupid.

“Let me know if you ever do a picture of X.” (Where X is a particular animal, flower, scene, person.)
You’re welcome to join my website mailing list to be notified of all new artworks as soon as they’re available, or commission me to do a picture of X just for you, but I can’t maintain wishlists.

“CP Treasures, Vol. IV” is out!

CP Treasures, Colored Pencil Masterworks from around the Globe, Vol. IV has just been published, and I’m thrilled to be included in it!  My Tree of Kintsugi has a whole page.  120 artists from all over the world are represented, countries as diverse as Israel, Myanmar, Malaysia, the Netherlands, South Africa, Greece, New Zealand, Australia, and of course the USA.  Click on the image below to see more details about the book, including a video preview!

4b0d23c1-a283-4779-8a85-5ccfb8b739c1

“You should work abstractly”

During one of my Silicon Valley Open Studio weekends, a tall, well-dressed man arrived, looked at all my work, and then said “Your skills and your color sense are very strong.  Have you considered working abstractly?”  I replied “I’m a realist, so no, I’m not really interested in working abstractly.”  He went on to urge me to consider abstraction, although he didn’t really explain why other than the “strong color sense”, or what kind of abstraction he had in mind.  I politely thanked him for his feedback, and he left.

It seemed like such an odd suggestion!  I related it to my husband and he joked that I should’ve told the man “For $5000 I’d be more than happy to draw some squiggles for you.”  Later in the day as I thought  more about the exchange, I thought of another response:  “Do you have any idea how many painters I know who have told me the reason they paint abstractly is because they can’t draw?”

I’m still pondering the conversation weeks later.  With so many artists already working abstractly, why would someone suggest that a realist change their entire way of interpreting the world?  Are there abstract artists out there who are being told they should try working realistically?  Was he simply testing my commitment to my style?  Did it occur to him that at some point in my art experience I probably had already experimented with abstraction since it was favored over realism in art schools during the 1970s and early 1980s?  Was he biased toward abstraction and only happened to visit my studio by chance rather than by choice?

I’ll never know the answers to these questions.  But there’s no question about whether I’ll remain a realist.  A realist who looks for and portrays abstractions in the world around me, something I already do all the time.  Because the world, both natural and man-made, is full of incredible shapes, textures and colors.  If I do anything that looks abstract, it’s going to be because I found it by looking at a scene differently than others might have, not because I went out of my way to “work abstractly”.

Featured Artist in Ann Kullberg’s COLOR magazine

I am thrilled to pieces to be the featured artist in the May 2016 issue of Ann Kullberg’s COLOR magazine!  The eight-page article talks about my background, aspirations, and some of my favorite drawing materials, and includes several images of my work.  And just look at my Don’t Take the Bridge on the cover!  Click on the image to order a copy from the publisher; the page also includes a video preview of the issue.

COLOR_May2016_cover

My thoughts on the coloring-book craze

IMG_5583

A rack of adult coloring books at a local arts and crafts store. Just the front side!

Over the past couple of years, you’ve probably noticed the huge influx of “adult coloring books” in bookstores, art supply stores, and even supermarket magazine racks.  The books’  linear designs range from simple garden flowers to incredibly intricate mandala patterns.  This type of “coloring” has been noted for a calming, soothing, therapeutic effect, somewhat like meditation or knitting.  It has caught on in rehab facilities and senior centers.

Adult coloring books are still growing in popularity, so sales of markers and colored pencils have skyrocketed, and some artists have successfully self-published their own coloring books.  There is even a new brand of colored pencils made in China and marketed to the coloring-book crowd as much cheaper than the better-known brands, albeit lower in quality.  Since I have published free swatch charts for many popular brands on my website, someone asked if I’m planning to publish one for this new brand, too.  (No, and I’m not going to name the brand here.)

As an artist whose primary medium is colored pencil, I have mixed feelings about this fad.  On the one hand, it’s great to see so many people (re)discovering colored pencils, and hopefully they’ll be inspired to take the next step to learn how to create their own original drawings and master the medium.  On the other hand, it’s also leading to an impression that colored pencils aren’t a fine art medium, they’re for very casual hobbyists.  And that’s an impression that the Colored Pencil Society of America has worked hard since 1990 to dispel, so it feels like a giant step backward.

Recently, Time magazine published an article “How coloring inside the lines came into fashion” which examined these impressions.  Today, I was glad to read the CPSA’s response to it.

I personally have been told “Oh, you should make a coloring book!” and I take that as a compliment about how interesting my subjects are and how easily they might translate into linear outlines.

But on a Facebook group for colored pencil artists I have read accounts of fellow artists being asked about their original work “What coloring book is this from?” and the questioner not being able to grasp that it was not from a coloring book.  I think if this was asked of me I’d have a hard time responding without curse words!  I can see how this confusion might arise, since some people who color in pages from a coloring book post them to social media with the idea that it’s now “art”.  It’s not.  There’s an important distinction: all art is artwork, but not all artwork is art.

The latest ridiculousness resulting from this fad is a report of a community college offering a five-day “Coloring Book Technique” workshop, for which people pay $130 and bring their own coloring books and colored pencils.  Really?  Since when do we have to be taught how to color in coloring books?  Every seven-year-old knows how to do this.

So on balance, although I recognize the value of adult coloring books as therapy and for relaxation, so far I’m not happy about what it’s doing for serious artists who work with colored pencil.  For any such artist, I recommend that if someone asks what kind of art you do, don’t say “I do colored pencil drawings” or they’ll likely assume you mean you color in coloring books.  Instead, try simply saying “I work mainly in colored pencil”.  The subtle difference in wording may trigger a better mental image.

IMG_5584

The back side of the same rack.

Making time to make art

As I’ve mentioned in at least one previous blog post, I work full-time as a software engineer in Silicon Valley but art is not my “hobby”–I consider it my other career.  I had to scale way back on some other time-consuming activities I enjoy in order to make this possible.  However, you don’t need to do this in order to make some time for art in your own life!  Here are a few suggestions I have for how to work art creation into your busy schedule.

  1. Set up a small area in your home as a dedicated “art space”, where your drawing board, chair and supplies are always ready.  They will be right there inviting you to sit down and play, and you won’t have to waste a single minute on setup or takedown.  This makes it so much easier to decide you have time!
  2. If you think you need at least three hours of uninterrupted time to merit starting, think again.  Sure, we’d all like to have that luxury, but you can make a lot of progress by accumulating much shorter time increments.  Maybe today all you have time to do is select and print out your reference(s).  Maybe tomorrow all you have time to do is cut the paper.  Maybe the day after that all you have time to do is draw the basic outline.  That’s all progress!
  3. If you’re tired or don’t feel like drawing, tell yourself “just 30 minutes”.
  4. Divide and conquer. Some people like to work all over an image as they go, developing it as a whole.  And that’s fine, but it makes for a long wait before you finally start to see the finish line.  Depending upon your temperament, you might lose patience or interest before you get far enough along to see it take shape.  So an alternative is to fully complete one small area at a time.  If your subject is a bunch of grapes, focus on just one or two grapes until they look finished (you can always come back later for finishing, unifying touches).
  5. Keep the colors you have used so far on a drawing out from the rest of the set until you’ve finished the drawing, so you don’t have to remember them to proceed with the next section.
  6. Only work on one drawing at a time.  This doesn’t apply to painters who must wait for hours or days for layers of paint to dry, but for dry media you’ll have more work to show sooner if you focus on one at a time.
  7. Have the references for your next few pieces queued up.  If you’re like me, it can take days to decide what to work on next–a big time suck!  By choosing in advance, you can launch right into the next one as soon as your finished with the previous one.  If you change your mind later, that’s fine, but at least you have a plan.
  8. Work small.  You’ll finish sooner by working smaller.  If you’re still learning techniques, you’ll learn more and faster by trying something small and moving on, rather than trying to struggle your way through a larger, long-term piece.  This is the philosophy behind the painting-a-day-for-30-days challenge.

I hope this helps you fit a little bit of art-making into your life!